You know how old people experience health problems because they don’t follow a proper diet, or because they don’t get enough nutrients?
Senior dogs also experience the same problem, and it can be tough to accept that your 15-year old dog stopped eating.
It’s natural for older dogs to have a reduced appetite as they age, and there are a lot of reasons for it. So, if your aging dog has completely stopped eating, we’re here for you.
Here’s what it means when an older dog stops eating and what you can do to help them.
Why Do Old Dogs Stop Eating?
There are several reasons why your 15-year old dog may stop eating. Before anything, try to ask yourself if they have really stopped eating or just have a reduced appetite.
If your dog isn’t eating much as they used to but is still maintaining their weight and their health, this is less worrying. But if they really refuse any food, then it’s a more serious problem.
Also, notice if they’re gradually getting pickier or just don’t care about food at all anymore. Appetite fluctuates as dogs age, similarly to us humans.
Here are some possible reasons why your senior dog may have stopped eating.
- Joint pain. Their food dishes might be at the wrong height and they just can’t reach it anymore. If they can’t bend down anymore look for an elevated dog feeder with airtight food storage.
- They aren’t getting as much exercise as before. An inactive body needs fewer calories.
- They have dental problems, making eating painful.
- Their digestive system isn’t working as well anymore.
- They have a medical condition like heart disease, kidney disease, Addison’s disease, or cancer. Their other systems may be starting to shut down, which makes eating, drinking, urinating, and other things become harder.
- They are constipated due to a lack of water.
- They don’t have a sense of smell or taste anymore, so food does not seem appetizing anymore.
These are the most common issues in aging dogs related to a complete loss of appetite.
How Long Can an Old Dog Go Without Eating?
As previously mentioned, when your dog stops eating, it’s an early sign that they are not feeling well, so take them to the vet as soon as possible.
When it comes to how long a dog can go without eating, there is no exact answer because every dog is different. Their older age is one important factor here.
In general, dogs can safely go without eating for anywhere from five days to three weeks. Remember that this depends on the size and health of your dog, as well as their movement and temperature.
If your old dog is sick and has stopped eating, this might help them feel better faster, but only for a very short time. For instance, if they have diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract, it allows them to recover.
The treatment in dog pancreatitis is to allow the pancreas to rest and recover, which means withholding all food and water for at least 24 hours. If your dog’s health improves, they can and should begin to eat again.
But more than a couple of days without food can affect the rest of the body and just make things worse.
This also applies if your dog has stopped drinking water. Three days is generally the maximum your dog can go safely without it.
Will an Old Dog Starve Themselves to Death?
Young or old, dogs can purposefully avoid eating, especially if they have gastroenteritis or an underlying injury that has taken their appetite away.
But they aren’t starving themselves, their body is just telling them that they cannot take in that much food anymore.
Senior dogs don’t make a conscious decision to begin starving themselves to death. The idea that dogs understand death is still questionable.
According to Science Daily, a dog has the equivalent mind of a 2-year old. Psychology Today adds that they may feel depressed, but their canine survival instincts remain strong.
There is also no evidence that dogs understand that starvation could kill them.
How to Help Your Senior Dog
The best way to help your dog who has completely stopped eating is to talk to the vet. They may recommend techniques to get their appetite back or a prescription diet to meet your dog’s nutritional needs if they have an underlying medical condition.
If your dog is ill you should avoid starving them in an attempt to force them to eat a prescribed diet. If your dog won’t eat what they are supposed to you should talk with your veterinarian about alternatives.
In more severe cases, your vet may prescribe appetite-stimulating medications, syringe-feeding a liquid diet, or inserting a feeding tube.
Again, it is important to know if your old dog has stopped eating or is just getting pickier. They might also just be losing interest in their regular foods.
You could try feeding them different foods to see if they are interested in other flavors.
Remember to ensure your dog is getting their fluids, even if they have to take it in a dropper. Your dog is relying on you to stay hydrated.
Here are some other ways you can help your dog if they won’t eat.
As mentioned, complete loss of appetite may be caused by their systems shutting down already. Your vet might recommend euthanasia, which is a very hard decision to make.
If your dog is not eating and is in so much pain already, it might be time to determine their quality of life.
Saying goodbye to your dog here in these last long hours is a very personal private thing. Each person does it in their own way.
Be There for Your Senior Dog!
Don’t ever ignore your dog’s sudden and complete loss of appetite. Even if it’s common in senior dogs, they still deserve all the love and care that will help them meet their nutritional needs.
Your old dog’s loss of appetite can be due to a medical condition or simply because they can’t reach their food bowl. If the latter is the case, find an elevated dog feeder with airtight food storage to help your senior dog feel more comfortable when eating.
However, if your dog stopped eating because their organs are starting to shut down, it is best to consult your vet about it.
Determine your dog’s quality of life and accept when it’s time to say goodbye.